How Long Does an Air Conditioner Last?
Average Life Span of Air Conditioners and Furnaces
How long does an air conditioner last? Most air conditioner manufacturers claim their AC unit should last approximately 12 to 15 years, if installed properly & maintained regularly. Gas furnaces typically have a longer lifespan of 15 to 20 years, as they contain fewer moving parts than AC’s.
Can I Replace Just My Air Conditioner and Keep My Furnace?
I started working in the HVAC (Heating, Ventilation, & Air Conditioning) industry over three decades ago. Years ago, it was very common to replace only the air conditioner, and use the existing furnace. Even 20-years ago, when I founded Magic Touch Mechanical – Mesa, AZ., it was still being done – although not as frequently.
Government mandated efficiency ratings, and AHRI (Air Conditioning, Heating, & Refrigeration Institute “matched system” requirements ended that. A non AHRI Certified air conditioning & heating system may have a reduced warranty – or may void the warranty completely. A reputable heating & air conditioning contractor won’t (or shouldn’t) ever install a non AHRI Certified HVAC System match.
How Long Does an Air Conditioner Last if Not Installed Correctly?
This is a more appropriate questions for many people to ask. As discussed in this article, one study found 9 out of 10 brand new air conditioners are wasting energy. Air conditioners that are installed improperly, designed incorrectly, or not sized using a load calculation will fail prematurely.
Magic Touch Mechanical has repaired, maintained, & installed tens of thousands of central air conditioners since forming in 1997. Providing service to the Phoenix Metro area & nearby cities, we see the good, bad, and ugly. In the worst cases, we’ve seen AC units that needed to be replaced after only a few years due to being improperly sized and installed.
In some of these cases, it was simply more cost effective and a wiser decision for the owner to simply remove and replace it. It’s a painful thing to watch.
DIY Air Conditioner Maintenance
One way to help your air conditioner last longer is keeping its components operating according to manufacturer specifications. There are some moderately easy things you can do yourself to keep your AC unit in good shape.
Wash Your AC Condenser Coils Twice a Year
If you have a split air conditioner (AC Condenser located outside on the ground), you can avoid costly chemical cleanings with frequent cleanings.
*Warning* – Make sure you shut off power to the condenser before servicing!
To gain access to the coils you’ll need to remove the top and condenser fan motor (in most cases). Next, remove any hail guards enclosing the coils. Use a garden hose and spray from the inside out until the water runs clear and coils are shiny silver.
Test Your Air Conditioner’s Temperature Split aka Delta
For this test, you’ll need a digital stick thermometer meant to measure air temperature (not a food thermometer). You can purchase a decent digital stick thermometer for approximately $25.
First, place your thermometer in the return air airstream. Return air is the grill where your AC’s air filter goes, and record the temperature after about a minute. Next, do the same in the nearest supply air register (vent).
Hopefully, the temperature difference will be close to 20-degrees Fahrenheit. If so, this is a good indication that your refrigerant charge is probably okay.
Too low a temperature split usually means there’s something wrong with your AC unit. If the temperature split is lower than 16-degrees, it’s time to call a pro to find out why.
Too high a temperature split is not good either and can also indicate something is wrong with your air conditioning system. If the temperature split is 25-degrees or more, we recommend scheduling professional AC service.
Measure Amperages, Voltages, & Capacitance
First a disclaimer: If you do not have expert level knowledge of electrical components, circuits, relays, and capacitors do not attempt this! Even with the power off, some components in your AC store electricity and can injure or kill you!
For those with this knowledge, you now want to measure and record compressor and motor amperage and compere them to manufacture specs. Measure voltage drop through contractors and switches. Also, visually inspect all connections for signs of pitting, arcing, and burn marks.
Any components outside of tolerance and/or manufacturer specifications should be replaced. Note, if your AC unit is under warranty, you’ll need to have these components replaced by an approved HVAC Contractor. AC Service by a non-approved contractor can void the factory warranty.
Testing Your AC’s Refrigerant Level
Hooking up refrigerant gauges to an air conditioner requires EPA Certification. Violators can be fined tens of thousands of dollars in fines and even jailtime. That said, I’ve met many people with this certification that still don’t truly understand how a refrigeration circuit works.
Testing refrigerant levels requires an expert understanding of expansion valves, superheat, subcooling, and temperature-pressure charts. If you have the experience required to understand these topics – measure and record these readings and compare to manufacturer specifications.
Regular AC Service Determines the Answer to “How Long Does an Air Conditioner Last?”
Don’t fix it if it ain’t broke. We’ve all heard this before, right? In the 30-years I’ve been an air conditioning service technician, I’ve witnessed that belief get costly.
Regular AC service will help catch little issues that neglected, lead to major failures. I can say without a doubt that air conditioners that are maintained regularly, last longer.
Should I Repair or Replace My Older Air Conditioner?
We’ve answered the question: How long does an air conditioner last? Which leads to a follow up question…when to replace an older AC unit?
Rather than offer up an “opinion”, I let the facts answer the question. Years ago, a Washington state contractor showed me a Repair vs. Replace Worksheet he had created. The worksheet put a score on about 50 data points entered on the AC unit.
I used the worksheet on 25 different air conditioners of different ages and conditions. The results were nothing short of spot-on. Ever since, we’ve used the Repair vs. Replace worksheet for hundreds of clients pondering the same question.
As much as I’d like to answer this question with an exact answer, it’s different for everyone. Your budget, utility costs, and comfort all weigh into the right answer for you. If you’re in Magic Touch’s service area, schedule a maintenance visit and Repair vs. Replace Comparison. If you’re outside of the Mesa / Phoenix Metro area: My opinionis replacement should start being considered around 10-12 years.
How Long Does an Air Conditioner Last…When Installed by Magic Touch?
Give us a call or send us a message to schedule a free new ac unit replacement estimate and let’s find out together! We have the reputation we do and thousands of 5-Star reviews for a reason! We look forward to exceeding your expectations!